Record Number of Chinese Tech, Media and Telecom Companies List Overseas in First Half

In the first half of this year, 78 Chinese technology, media and telecommunications (TMT) companies made initial public offerings, about half of which occurred outside the mainland, according to a new report.

The number of TMT listings outside the Chinese mainland — all of which occurred in Hong Kong and the U.S. — reached 34, a new record, the Wednesday report from PwC Consulting said.

However, regulatory headwinds emanating both from Beijing and Washington could mean that this record is unlikely to be broken any time soon.

Of the overseas listings, 20 occurred in the U.S., raising a total of 65.2 billion yuan ($10.06 billion). That was a major leap over the same period in the first half of 2020, when only nine IPOs were launched.

“Mainland TMT companies continued their strong performance in the global capital market, driven by the listing of Chinese enterprises in the United States and the return of China concept stocks to the Hong Kong capital market,” explained Jianbin Gao, PwC’s Chinese mainland TMT industry leader.

The 14 Hong Kong listings raised substantially more, at 110.5 billion yuan. Just four companies accounted for nearly half of that figure — internet giant Baidu Inc., streaming platform Bilibili Inc., travel agency Trip.com Group Ltd., and automotive services platform Autohome Inc. — all of which were conducting secondary listings to follow on from their primary U.S. listings.

Of the 44 TMT debuts on mainland bourses, only five chose to list on Shenzhen or Shanghai’s main boards — the A-share markets — with 22 going for the Nasdaq-like STAR Market and 17 plucking for the ChiNext board. The mainland listings raised just 38 billion yuan.

The listing landscape may be very different in the second half year, considering the U.S. tightening regulations for Chinese listings and Beijing’s moves to exert greater oversight on the IPOs of companies which hold potentially sensitive data.

Just a week ago, the chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission paused IPOs of the shell companies often used by Chinese firms to list in the country.This includes the U.S. auditing regulator working to implement its duties under the recently passed Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, which could trigger the delisting of Chinese companies whose audits cannot be inspected by the watchdog.

Beijing has spooked investors in internet companies with a sprawling regulatory crackdown on internet companies, ranging from data security to unfair and exploitative business practices.

One key element is new cybersecurity measures which could mean virtually all such companies would have to submit to a government review before they could make an overseas IPO.

The crackdown kicked off in the wake of ride-hailing giant Didi’s U.S. IPO, which saw the company’s share price plummet, 25 of its apps removed from app stores and investigators stationed at its headquarters.

These issues are likely to boost the share of Chinese TMT companies choosing to stay at home for their IPOs. Though this pathway may be less appealing for companies with less-than stellar financial performance, who tend to get a better reception overseas, according to the PwC report.

“Concurrently, an impending reunion of the three major telecom operators to the A-share market indicates that the mainland market will open a window for the development of larger TMT enterprises,” said Gao, referring to the completed and planned mainland listings by the country’s state-owned mobile carriers, who were delisted from the New York exchange.

Authors: Manyun Zou and Du Zhihang, Caixin Global

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